Our Story

Our company takes its name from Black & Tan clubs, which existed as both a place to have a great party, and to give people an alternative to the horrible reality of segregation. Jazz, the quintessential American art form, was the music that people played in Seattle’s Black & Tan when it was established in the 1920’s. Our Black & Tan Hall is not only a necessary revival of the old clubs’ spirit of integration and diversity, it also draws power from the nature of jazz: music that demands great flexibility and keen listening. We are creating a space that is both communal and classy, where great conversations are had, and where creative ferment is a constant.

We foster a space that serves as a model for young people to learn and grow, and gives powerful opportunities to the historically disenfranchised.

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By developing a new version of a for-profit, community cooperative, Black & Tan Hall extends opportunities for ownership to Seattle residents who are being displaced by gentrification. Each Partner invests their heart, money, and time in the Hall to create a new model for a locally owned business that empowers servants of the community.

The company was founded by Chef Tarik Abdullah, Rodney Herold and Benjamin Hunter, three longtime activists in the South Seattle neighborhood. Herold has worked as a community organizer and educator in the Rainier Valley for over 40 years. Abdullah--a nationally recognized chef and local culinary educator--grew up in Seattle’s Central District, where he was inspired by the community leadership and entrepreneurial spirit of his father. Hunter, a co-founder of the nearby Hillman City Collaboratory, is an internationally touring musician, organizer, and teacher who is active in Seattle’s music scene.

In 2015 these three came together to extend their work engaging the community by founding a company that reflected their passion for art, culture, and activism. They wanted to form a for-profit business that did not abide by the current system of capitalism that puts profit over people. Together, they created a blueprint for a model to create a quality, equitable experience for both owners and customers. A place that allowed people to congregate, discuss dreams and ideas, and be inspired by tastes, sounds, colors and smells that bring people back to the dignity, respect and mutual understanding that reflects the better angels of our common humanity.

Together with fellow artists and activists, Partners spent months renovating the old Maxim’s building—originally The American Theater—while discussing the formation of this model. In October of 2016, these discussions culminated in a dozen Partners signing an Operating Agreement. As more Partners joined throughout the winter, each invested their heart, time and money to serve and develop the new model, all the while fueling their own passions and pride in the community.

America's Black & Tan clubs were typically black-owned and operated. In light of Seattle's checkered history and the legacy of such venues, the Partners chose by consensus to celebrate and elevate people of color, and the contributions of all Seattle residents whose voices have been silenced politically and economically while exploited artistically and culturally.

The Hall's Partnership quadrupled by June of 2017, and almost 50 people were now adding energy and skills to the cooperative. As the company's model took shape, renovation of the building was done through upcycling, finding creative ways to use materials that had been abandoned or forgotten. This reflected the Partners’ commitment to embrace the past, and let it inform the approach to building the future.

We are are artists, families, craftspeople, young and old folks. We believe that effective change cannot take place on a large scale until it is modeled on a small scale. When we enlist a wide range of neighbors as investors in our community, we can begin to break the pattern of displacement.